pre-holiday checklist

Home Exchange: How to Get a Free Holiday is a sponsored post

Want to know how to get a free holiday this summer with home exchange?  Read on!

We were recently invited to work with HomeExchange.com, who are one of the world’s largest home exchange websites. They offered us the chance to experience a week in a home exchange property anywhere in the world, so we could share that with our readers!

The idea behind home exchange is pretty simple. Rather than booking a hotel or villa for your next holiday, you go and stay in someone’s home while they (possibly) stay in your home.

How does Home Exchange Work?

The original idea behind HomeExchange is this:

I go and stay in Peter’s apartment in Rome for a week. At the same time, he comes and stays in my house in Lancashire. Nobody pays for the arrangement, and we can even exchange cars during our holiday if we choose.

The big advantages of a home exchange are: 

  • Cost: the only cost associated is the membership fee you pay to the site (currently £120)
  • Convenience: rather than being in a hotel, you’re in a home where you can cook, watch TV, access kids’ books and toys – all the comforts you’d enjoy at home
  • Experience: Rather than being in an impersonal hotel, you get to really live like a local, in a residential neighbourhood. It’s a much more authentic travel experience.

Even better, HomeExchange has evolved in recent years to give members more flexibility through “guest points”.

Basically, guest points are the solution if Peter from Rome wants to come to sunny Lancashire, but I want to go to Paris. Peter pays me 1,000 Guest Points to stay in my home, and I can use those Guest Points to ‘pay’ for a visit to Sarah’s apartment in Paris. Sarah can then use the points to visit her preferred destination.

disney california adventure

How to Get a Free Holiday

Sites like HomeExchange.com are aware that many of us feel a bit – unsure – about home exchanging. Although we love the idea of travelling for free, how do we feel about someone staying in our home?

What if they start snooping through our stuff? What happens if something gets damaged? Would anyone even want to stay in our home?

For this reason, when you join HomeExchange.com, the company will basically gift you 1250 Guest Points.

You can earn these points by completing your home listing, verifying your account by submitting government-issued ID and proof of address, and so on.

At this point, you will have up to 1,250 Guest Points that you can use to book a stay in a HomeExchange property – WITHOUT needing to let anyone stay in your home.

Of course, HomeExchange hopes that you will love your first trip so much that you’ll be inspired to keep on exchanging, and letting people visit your own home. But this is a totally risk-free way to get a free holiday – although you WILL need to pay the site registration fee to confirm your exchange and benefit from the HomeExchange service and protection. (And I very much recommend you do this). And of course, you’ll need to pay for flights (if applicable) and your own personal insurance etc.

What does 1250 Guest Points add up to? 

1250 guest points is a really decent amount of points to try out the home exchange experience. Many smaller or less flashy properties cost as little as 90 points per night, although we’re much more of the “splash out” sort…

With that in mind, you could book five nights at this magnificent beach villa in Bali (250 points per night).

home exchange bali

Or how about four nights on top of a mountain in Hawaii? (270 points per night)

home exchange review

Closer to home, you could enjoy a city break with a long weekend in Rome at this city centre apartment (200 points per night)

rome home exchange

There are thousands of properties to browse on HomeExchange.com. Simply put in the dates you’d like to travel, and your ideal location, and browse the listings. You can view calendars showing when properties are available, and whether the owners are open to a simultaneous (traditional) exchange, a guest points

Is a Home Exchange Safe?

We’ve been using AirBnB for many of our travels over the past five years, so we’re very comfortable with the idea of being in someone else’s home.

When you’re travelling with children, especially, there’s a lot to be said for having a quiet morning at home watching TV, or being able to come home at night and cook the kids something familiar, rather than having to eat out again.

HomeExchange is a very similar concept. There are a few different features designed to ensure you’re safe, and won’t get left without a place to stay, though.

Firstly, when you join HomeExchange you have the option to verify your listing by sharing government ID and proof of address. This means you can be confident anyone you’re staying with (or inviting to stay in your home) is who they say they are, and lives at the address you’re visiting.

Second, all exchanges booked through HomeExchange.com have two levels of insurance. Firstly, anyone going on an exchange has a hold placed on their credit card for £500. This means any small damages caused by someone visiting your home will be deducted from their security hold. If more significant damage happens, you have up to $1m insurance on exchanges, as part of the HomeExchange.com service.

Third, HomeExchange guarantees to help if someone cancels an exchange, leaving you stuck without a place to stay. If you have booked a holiday or travel, they will refund up to 700 euros per week in expenses. And if you arrive somewhere and don’t have a place to stay, they will guarantee to find you another home exchange, or provide up to 700 euros per week to cover other accommodation.

new build home lounge

Do We Have to Host People in Our Home?

As mentioned above, you can try the HomeExchange.com website without needing to host someone to begin with.

We initially registered with the site and claimed our 1,250 free guest points. As part of our collaboration, HomeExchange.com also gifted us 2,000 points to stay anywhere we chose. So we didn’t have to offer up our home.

But a few days after registering with the site, I was contacted by a professor in Colorado who wanted to stay in our home for the summer and offered us his house in exchange. Then I was contacted by a lady who comes from the small town we live in, but now lives in Barcelona, by the beach. She wanted to come for Easter with her children, to visit her mother. She was very keen to see if our house was available.

We probably get one or two home exchange enquiries a week from people living all over the world. This week I’ve heard from two families in Australia, a family in Spain, one in France and another from Connecticut.

Isn’t it weird having people in your home? 

We often travel through the summer months and I’ve often invited Internet friends to stay in our home by the sea. So it’s not that weird or scary to me to do the same with a HomeExchange.com user. I figure that:

  • My house is hardly filled with priceless, irreplaceable anquiques and objet d’art
  • You can easily put all your spare clothes, private paperwork and anything irreplaceable into a room that’s not available to exchange guests (we’re using our garage) or even into storage over the summer
  • Yes, we have personal items. But they’re the same sort of personal items everyone has. And I’m not going to be there to care/be embarrassed that someone doesn’t like my curtains, or thinks my CD collection is lame.

I have the reassurance of the insurance cover, but HomeExchange.com also encourages you to chat to people before committing to an exchange. You can email and Skype, negotiate about everything from what food you’ll leave in the fridge to having people water your garden or look after your pets.

We will be doing a home exchange with the family in Barcelona next month, giving us a week’s holiday in Spain for the price of two flights, which were around £150.

Over the summer, we have another family staying in our home for 10 days – a mum, grandmother and two young girls, who are visiting from New England and will use our home after visiting Cornwall and London, before heading to Scotland.

The points I earn from this exchange, plus my welcome points from HomeExchange.com mean I’ve been able to arrange accommodation for our entire summer trip to California this year.

We’ll begin our trip with a few days in LA, before heading to a cabin just a short walk from the shores of Lake Tahoe. From there, we should be heading to a studio apartment in Santa Cruz, and rounding our trip off with a stay in a gorgeous family home with a pool in Ojai, just a short drive from the coast at Ventura.

We’ve done this trip three times before and usually spend between £3,000 and £4,000 on accommodation, so this is a massive saving for us. I can’t wait to see how it pans out.

If you have any questions about home exchange, and our experience using the site, then please do let me know. I’ll update you all once we’ve completed our first exchange to Barcelona next month!

If you want to know more about home exchange and how it works, check out these posts: 

Home Exchange Stories from HomeExchange.com

Tips on a Home Exchange holiday (Daily Telegraph)

10 Things You need to Know about Home Swapping (USA Today)

 

 

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She's also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world's coolest ten year old.